Jackson County Opinions...

 August 16, 2000

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
August 16, 2000

Duct Tape: Don't Leave Home Without It
I never leave home without it. My American Express Card? No, my roll of duct tape.
A roll of two-inch silver tape stays in each of my vehicles and another occupies a prominent space in the garage.
It has served me well. The first use of this venerable component of Southern jury-rigging was to hold the fore-stock on my first shotgun, a 12-gauge, single-shot Stevens model that may hold the record for the most shots fired and least game killed. A single application of duct tape lasted 15 years and was still on the gun when I sold it for $10 at a yard sale.
I have patched radiator hoses, inner tubes at the lake, wrapped packages, spliced tent poles, and effected repairs too innumerable to recall.
If you fix something with duct tape, it stays fixed.
I offer my boat as an example.
It is a winsome 12-foot aluminum craft that has been floated in more ponds than a beaver could create in a lifetime. Sliding it in and out of the truck, across the ground, over rocks and sand has created a few small leaks that must occasionally be mended.
The first application of duct tape came when I was prepared to go fishing, only to recall that I'd failed to patch several minor leaks after the last trip. Not wanting to take the time at the moment, I applied duct tape to the bottom of the boat and went fishing. The leaks were reduced by at least 80 percent.
If a little duct tape works pretty well, it stands to reason that a lot would work very well. I removed the old duct tape, painted over the worn down rivets, put duct tape back over them, then painted over the tape.
Problem solved, leaks stopped.
One evening, en route to the lake a swerve to avoid a pothole toppled a battery in my aluminum boat. The battery poles touched the boat, sparks ensued, and the result was four .30 caliber holes (below the water line) that gave the boat the appearance of having been shot. An application of duct tape to the outside, and another to the inside, slowed the leak down sufficiently that we were able to fish without getting our feet wet.
Later, I improved the patch with Bondo (which is rapidly gaining prominence in my emergency repertoire), then applied duct tape both inside and out. The craft was seaworthy again.

An Ode To Duct Tape:
Duct tape is grey and tough as nails,
It always sticks and seldom fails.
Patch your shoes, your truck, your spouse,
Repair the roof on your old house.

Duct tape holds it all together,
Outlasting wear and tear and weather,
Its lusty silver shine endures,
As the worst of leaks and tears it cures.

Duct tape has its own elegant appearance, a rich silvery color that generates immediate recognition. You can fill holes, create a splint, tie down a boat, remove dog hair from clothing, repair surgical wounds, patch heart valves and mend anything but a broken relationship.
For that, you'll probably want to use Bondo.

The Jackson Herald
August 16, 2000

BOE policy change a good move
There's a lot of talk in political circles about "school choice" - allowing parents to pick which school their child will attend. The theory behind school choice is that competition between schools will serve to improve the overall quality of education.
That theory may get something of a friendly test here in Jackson County following Monday night's vote by the Jackson County Board of Education to change its policy concerning out-of-district students.
For the past four years, the county school system had shut its doors to out-of-district students due to growth in the system and classroom overcrowding. But that closed-door policy was an overreaction to the space problem.
The new policy opens the door for out-of-district students to attend county schools, but it also puts in place reasonable restrictions on how such students will be accepted. In fact, the new county policy is almost identical to the one adopted by the Jefferson City Board of Education earlier this year. (Ironically, Jefferson adopted its policy so it could be more restrictive because of growth, while the county system adopted the policy to be less restrictive.)
Jackson County, of course, is unusual in that we have three school systems within our borders. The competition between those systems has not always been friendly, but in recent years the three have found new ways to work together.
So it is understandable that there was some hesitancy on the part of the Jackson County BOE in moving to an open-door policy, since such a move could potentially have an impact on students attending the two city high schools, especially Jefferson High School, which is less than a mile away.
Because it is so much larger, Jackson County Comprehensive High School offers some courses and programs that smaller schools like JHS and CHS simply cannot afford. The Advanced Placement academic courses for college credit and strong fine arts program at JCCHS, for example, are programs that JHS has not been able to match on a large scale.
But JHS and CHS have the advantage of being smaller schools, which appeals to many parents, and they have a tradition of being strong academically in college prep programs. Moreover, their athletic programs have deep roots in their communities, and that serves as a common bond which goes back several generations.
So each of our local schools has certain advantages and disadvantages and it will be up to parents to decide which would be best for their children.
We believe that such freedom of choice will serve to improve all of our local schools, especially now that they exist in a friendly atmosphere where cooperation is just as important as competition.




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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
August 16, 2000

GOP's education politics will fail
If you had asked me in March what I thought the top issue in this year's elections would be, I'd have said, "Education!"
By the time Gov. Barnes got his education reform legislation through the General Assembly, education issues were a political hot potato. Surely, I thought, it would be part of the year's election season.
Now, however, I'm not so sure.
It's true, of course, that education issues are always important in elections, especially state House and Senate elections. State government control over public education is no myth. Officials can talk all they want about "local control" in schools, but the truth is, the state and federal governments control 80 percent of what happens in our schools.
But my earlier belief that education issues would dominate this year's legislative elections has waned. Not even listening to state school superintendent Linda Shrenko speak last week to the Jefferson Rotary Club changed my mind - the education hot potato has cooled.
That wasn't true for Shrenko. She sliced and diced the governor's education bill here just as she has been doing around the state. It's a good stump speech and on some points, her criticisms are on target. Whatever its merits, the governor's education reform bill does have flaws, especially in the funding formulas. (Shrenko is only too happy to point that out, in part because of education concerns, but also partly because she is being encouraged by some to run as the Republican candidate against Gov. Barnes in 2002. How much of her stump speech is legitimate and how much of it is political is an open question.)
But for many voters, the flaws in the legislation are off-radar. Funding formulas and classroom sizes and teacher tenure are all nebulous issues to a parent whose main concern is limited to his or her own children.
Republicans probably don't want to hear that. The GOP has been working feverishly this year to get control of state government so that when redistricting happens, Georgia will be made safe for Republicans. Bashing the governor's education efforts is a key part of the GOP strategy in this election cycle. Every Democratic state legislator who voted for the governor's bill has been targeted for defeat by the Republican Party. Education was the key "wedge issue" that is supposed to help Republicans oust incumbent Democrats.
But so far, voters are yawning. Outside of political diehards and education insiders, bashing the governor's bill has fallen out of favor and stirs little interest.
There are several reasons for this. For one thing, the overkill response by the state teacher's union over the tenure issue turned a lot of voters off. The tenure issue was a hot controversy, but few voters came away with sympathy for teachers after the union screamed and shouted about losing the job protection.
Another reason the public hasn't gotten up in arms about the governor's bill is that predictions of massive tax increases by local school boards haven't yet materalized. Although that may come to pass next year, so far most school boards have held tax rates down in anticipation of additional state funding next year.
But the main reason Gov. Barnes' bill has failed to develop into a hot political issue this fall is that many parents support Barnes' efforts even if they have questions about some of the details.
With Georgia's standardized test scores in the basement, parents have been looking for someone to take on the "education establishment." Gov. Barnes did that and the more education insiders screamed, the more many voters believed Barnes had hit the right target.
That parental dissatisfaction with public education has been showing up in many ways in recent years. The growth of home schooling is a major indication that a large number of parents have given up on public education. Likewise, the growth in church-based private schools is also a trend that indicates large numbers of parents are willing to walk away from public schools.
Even among parents who send their children to public schools, there is a growing sense that being politically correct in the classroom has become more important than being academically correct. That's especially true of parents of "average" students who believe that too much attention is being given to the bottom 10 percent of students at the expense of the other 90 percent. That dissatisfaction may be muted since many parents fear speaking openingly about their concerns, but it does exist to a much greater extent than most education leaders realize.
Gov. Barnes' legislation didn't deal directly with many of those problems. In fact, some would argue that the governor didn't go far enough to really reform public schools.
Still, many voters believe that whatever the legislative flaws and shortcomings, Gov. Barnes did at least begin the process of reform in Georgia. Republican efforts to get voters riled up over the details of Barnes' bill have for the most part fallen on deaf ears. Whatever the specifics, voters are glad somebody is at least attempting to do something to improve public schools.
And that's why the Republican strategy of using the Barnes education bill as a political wedge in this election season will fall flat.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Commerce News
August 16, 2000

For Success In School, Parents Have A Role
School starts Friday in the Commerce and Jackson County school systems and students, parents and educators all hope the 2000-2001 year will be a success.
Unfortunately, for too many students, it will be less successful than it could be. But it doesn't have to be that way and parents can do more than anyone else to make sure their children get the most out of the school year. In fact, if every parent made a conscientious effort, most of the problems schools have would be eliminated.
Parents of younger children can make sure their children are appropriately dressed, have eaten and arrive at school on time. They can read to their children, have their children read to them, ask the children about school and show them that education is important. They can be positive, make sure their children do their homework and other assignments and stay in contact with the child's teacher.
Even when the school children are older, it is crucial that parents support the efforts of teachers by making sure their children do assignments, get to school on time and do their homework. They should insist that their children be respectful of teachers, administrators and other students, that they give their best effort, participate in classroom activities, and do not participate in activities that will interfere with school. It may seem over-simple, but it is important that children get enough sleep each night.
All children should be encouraged to read. Ideally, every home would contain books, magazines, newspapers, even comic books ­ whatever it takes to interest the children in reading, which is the foundation of success in school. It is impossible to overstate the importance of good reading skills.
Parents should keep up with their child's work and not hesitate to ask teachers, administrators or the school counselor for help when a student is having problems with a subject or a concept.
In short, the professional educators will do their job this school year. If the students and parents will do their parts, it will be a successful school year.

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